Facing the "Syndrome" By Jeff Anliker, LMT, BD

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Are you too busy to address the pain, numbness and tingling in your fingers?  Are you going to “fix” it later?

If you said “Yes”, you need to stop and listen to what your body is telling you and that is, “Hey, something is wrong here, and you had better address it now, before it gets much worse!”  

The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affect the median nerve, which supplies feeling and function to the thumb, index, middle and one-half of the ring finger.  If you experience symptoms like numbness, tingling, pins and needles (paresthesia) or pain, in any combination, you had better take notice.  These symptoms are a telltale sign that something needs to be done now, not later.

The first step in taking control of you injury, as you never want your injury to control you, is to make an appointment to see your doctor in order to “log” your injury.  This is important if it is work-related, as this may be an issue that needs to be addressed, such as correcting your work station, implementing an ergonomics program, changing work tools, etc., as you may not be the first nor the last to be affected by the disabling effects of carpal tunnel syndrome in the workplace.

Once the injury has been “recognized” by your physician, the next step is to make a decision about how you want to correct the injury, as there is a variety of treatment solutions, with some that work okay, others that work well (non-invasive) and most of all, those that do not work at all (gadgets and surgery)!

Invasive treatment solutions include cortisone injections or open and endoscopic surgery.  These forms of treatment are the most commonly used, but have the poorest long-term success rates, with some individuals experiencing far greater symptoms after the treatments than before.  For cortisone injections, this may be a result of the injection actually irritating the nerve further, or with surgery, an increase in scar tissue development post surgery, nicking the nerve during surgery, or a non-stop pain cycle that occurs in a disorder known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) that also occurs post-surgery.  (Although RSD is not common, when it does occur, it makes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome feel good in comparison!)  

Non-invasive carpal tunnel treatments cover a much broader spectrum as it includes magnetic therapy, yoga, relaxation techniques, stretching, splints, exercising, ultrasound, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, gripping devices, squeeze-balls and any number of other therapies promising total relief.  So if conservative therapy is so much better than invasive treatments, how am I supposed to weed through all the garbage to know what works and what doesn’t? That is a good question.  The solution is to find out what “causes” carpal tunnel syndrome so that the cause, not the symptoms are being treated. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is, in most cases, caused by a muscle imbalance in the hands and forearms, resulting from either weak extensor muscles or strong, tight flexor muscles.  Either way, the outcome is the same, resulting in the compression and impingement of the underlying median nerve.  Addressing this muscle imbalance is the key to complete relief.

Eliminate the CAUSE of the muscle imbalance in 15-minutes a day by following this simple “1-2” process.

  1. Stretching Routine: Performing a series of stretches to the finger and wrist flexor muscles is extremely important in eliminating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as it lengthens the compressive structures (tendons, muscles and carpal ligament…slightly) that compress the median nerve.  But stretching alone cannot correct the disorder as the stretching creates length, but there is nothing to maintain the length of the muscle that was created through stretching. Meaning, that within minutes after stretching, the muscles shorten right back to where they were before the stretching was performed. The only way muscle length can be maintained is by exercising and shortening the opposing muscle group immediately after the stretches are finished.  Therefore the muscles are lengthened on one side of the wrist joint and shortened on the opposing side of the wrist joint, creating equal tension on the wrist joint.

  2. Flextend Exercises: These exercises are incredible and are at the core of eliminating the muscle imbalance through active stretching and strengthening in one, simultaneous action.  Performing pure, isolated extension exercises helps shorten the muscle group and maintain the length of the opposing muscles (flexors), resulting in the decompression of the carpal tunnel and the median nerve within.

The listed program may seem a little too easy, but relief in most cases is really this simple.  Try it today and experience pain relief and increased productivity without experiencing the countless gadget therapies or invasive treatments. 

Author: Jeff P. Anliker, LMT, BD – Therapist, Inventor and Author.